Web Optimization

I Want To Rank Beyond My Location: A Guide to How This Works

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Posted by MiriamEllis

Staff at your agency get asked this question just about every day, and it’s a local SEO forum FAQ, too:

“I’m located in ‘x’, but how do I rank beyond that?”

In fact, this query is so popular, it deserves a good and thorough answer. I’ve written this article in the simplest terms possible so that you can instantly share it with even your least-technical clients.

We’ll break rankings down into five easy-to-grasp groups, and make sense out of how Google appears to bucket rankings for different types of users and queries. Your clients will come away with an understanding of what’s appropriate, what’s possible, and what’s typically impossible. It’s my hope that shooting this link over to all relevant clients will save your team a ton of time, and ensure that the brands you’re serving are standing on steady ground with some good education.

There’s nothing quite like education as a sturdy baseline for creating achievable goals, is there?

One hypothetical client’s story

We’ll illustrate our story by focusing in on a single fictitious business. La Tortilleria is a tortilla bakery located at 197 Fifth Avenue in San Rafael, Marin County, California, USA. San Rafael is a small city with a population of about 60,000. La Tortilleria vends directly to B2C customers, as well as distributing their handmade tortillas to a variety of B2B clients, like restaurants and grocery stores throughout Marin County.

La Tortilleria’s organic white corn tortillas are so delicious, the bakery recently got featured on a Food Network TV show. Then, they started getting calls from San Francisco, Sacramento, and even Los Angeles asking about their product. This business, which started out as a mom-and-pop shop, is now hoping to expand distribution beyond county borders.

When it comes to Google visibility, what is La Tortilleria eligible for, and is there some strategy they can employ to show up in many places for many kinds of searches? Let’s begin:

Group I: Hyperlocal rankings

Scenario

Your supreme chance of ranking in Google’s local pack results is typically in the neighborhood surrounding your business. For example, with the right strategy, La Tortilleria could expect to rank very well in the above downtown area of San Rafael surrounding their bakery. When searchers are physically located in this area or using search language like “tortilleria near me,” Google can hyper-localize the radius of the search to just a few city blocks when there are enough nearby options to make up a local pack.

Ask the client to consider:

What is my locale like? Am I in a big city, a small town, a rural area?What is the competitive level of my market? Am I one of many businesses offering the same goods/services in my neighborhood, or am I one of the only businesses in my industry here?

Google’s local pack radius will vary greatly based on the answers to those two questions. For example, if there are 100 tortilla bakeries in San Rafael, Google doesn’t have to go very far to make up a local pack for a searcher standing on Fifth Avenue with their mobile phone. But, if La Tortilleria is one of only three such businesses in town, Google will have to reach further across the map to make up the pack. Meanwhile, in a truly rural area with few such businesses, Google’s smallest radius could span several towns, or if there simply aren’t enough options, not show a local pack in the results at all.

Strategy

To do well in the hyperlocal packs, tell your client their business should:

Create and claim a Google My Business listing, filling out as many fields as possible. Earn some reviews and respond to themBuild out local business listings on top local business information platforms, either manually or via a service like Moz Local. Mention neighborhood names or other hyperlocal terms on the company website, including on whichever page of the site the Google listing points to.If competition is strong in the neighborhood, invest in more advanced tactics like earning local linktations, developing more targeted hyperlocal content, using Google Posts to highlight neighborhood-oriented content, and managing Google Q&A to outdistance more sluggish competitors.

*Note that if you are marketing a multi-location enterprise, you’ll need to undertake this work for each location to get it ranking well at a hyperlocal level.

Group II: Local rankings

Scenario

These rankings are quite similar to the above but encompass an entire city. In fact, when we talk about local rankings, we are most often thinking about how a business ranks within its city of location. For example, how does La Tortilleria rank for searches like “tortilleria,” “tortilla shop,” or “tortillas san rafael” when a searcher is anywhere in that city, or traveling to that city from another locale?

If Google believes the intent of such searches is local (meaning that the searcher wants to find some tortillas to buy near them rather than just seeking general information about baked goods), they will make up a local pack of results. As we’ve covered, Google will customize these packs based on the searcher’s physical location in many instances, but a business that becomes authoritative enough can often rank across an entire city for multiple search phrases and searcher locales.

For instance, La Tortilleria might always rank #1 for “tortilla shop” when searchers on Fifth Avenue perform that search, but they could also rank #1 for “organic tortillas San Rafael” when locals in any part of that city or even out-of-towners do this lookup, if the business has built up enough authority surrounding this topic.

With the right strategy, every business has a very good chance of ranking locally in its city of physical location for some portion of its most desired search phrases.

Ask the client to consider:

Does my location + Google’s results behavior create small or large hurdles in my quest for city-wide rankings? When I look at the local packs I want to rank for, does Google appear to be clustering them too tightly in some part of the city to include my location in a different part of town? If so, can I overcome this? What can I specialize in to set me apart? Is there some product, service, or desirable attribute my business can become particularly known for in my city over all other competitors? If I can’t compete for the biggest terms I’d like to rank for, are there smaller terms I could become dominant for city-wide?How can I build my authority surrounding this special offering? What will be the most effective methodologies for becoming a household name in my community when people need the services I offer?

Your agency will face challenges surrounding this area of work. I was recently speaking with a business owner in Los Angeles who was disappointed that he wasn’t appearing for the large, lucrative search term “car service to LAX.” When we looked at the results together from various locations, we saw that Google’s radius for that term was tightly clustered around the airport. This company’s location was in a different neighborhood many miles away. In fact, it was only when we zoomed out on Google Maps to enlarge the search radius, or zoomed in on this company’s neighborhood, that we were able to see their listing appear in the local results.

This was a classic example of a big city with tons of brands offering nearly-identical services — it results in very stiff competition and tight local pack radius.

My advice in a tough scenario like this would revolve around one of these three things:

Becoming such a famous brand that the business could overcome Google’s famous biasSpecializing in some attribute that would enable them to seek rankings for less competitive keywordsMoving to an office near that “centroid” of business instead of in a distant neighborhood of the large city.

Your specific scenario may be easier, equal to, or even harder than this. Needless to say, a tortilla shop in a modestly-sized town does not face the same challenges as a car service in a metropolis. Your strategy will be based on your study of your market.

Strategy

Depending on the level of competition in the client’s market, tell them they will need to invest in some or all of the following:

Identify the keyword phrases you’re hoping to rank for using tools like Moz Keyword Explorer, Answer the Public, and Google Trends combined with organized collection and analysis of the real-world FAQs customers ask your staff.Observe Google’s local pack behavior surrounding these phrases to discover how they are clustering results. Perform searches from devices in your own neighborhood and from other places around your city, as described in my recent post How to Find Your True Local Competitors. You can also experiment with tools like BrightLocal’s Local Search Results Checker.Identify the top competitors in your city for your targeted phrases and then do a competitive audit of them. Stack these discovered competitors up side-by-side with your business to see how their local search ranking factors may be stronger than yours. Improve your metrics so that they surpass those of the competitors, whether this surrounds Google My Business signals, Domain Authority, reputation, citation factors, website quality, or other elements.If Google’s radius is tight for the most lucrative terms and your efforts to build authority so far aren’t enabling you to overcome it due to your location falling outside their reach, consider specialization in other smaller, but still valuable, search phrases. For instance, La Tortilleria could be the only bakery in San Rafael offering organic tortillas. A local business might significantly narrow the competition by being pet-friendly, open later, cheaper, faster, more staffed, women-led, serving specific dietary restrictions or other special needs, selling rarities, or bundling goods with expert advice. There are many ways to set yourself apart.Finally, publicize your unique selling proposition. Highlight it on your website with great content. If it’s a big deal, make connections with local journalists and bloggers to try to make news. Use Google My Business attributes to feature it on your listing. Cross-sell with related local businesses and promote one another online. Talk it up on social media. Structure review requests to nudge customers towards mentioning your special offering in their reviews. Do everything you can to help your community and Google associate your brand name with your specialty.
Group III: Regional rankings

Scenario

This is where we typically hit our first really big hurdle, and where the real questions begin. La Tortilleria is located in San Rafael and has very good chances of ranking in relation to that city. But what if they want to expand to selling their product throughout Marin County, or even throughout several surrounding counties? Unless competition is very low, they are unlikely to rank in the local packs for searchers in neighboring cities like Novato, Mill Valley, or Corte Madera. What paths are open to them to increase their visibility beyond their city of location?

It’s at this juncture that agencies start hearing clients ask, “What can I do if I want to rank outside my city?” And it’s here that it’s most appropriate to respond with some questions clients need to be asking themselves.

Ask the client to consider:

Does my business model legitimately lend itself to transactions in multiple cities or counties? For example, am I just hoping that if my business in City A could rank in City B, people from that second location would travel to me? For instance, the fact that a dentist has some patients who come to their practice from other towns isn’t really something to build a strategy on. Consumers and Google won’t be excited by this. So, ask yourself: “Do I genuinely have a model that delivers goods/services to City B or has some other strong relationship to neighbors in those locales?”Is there something I can do to build a physical footprint in cities where I lack a physical location? Short of opening additional branches, is there anything my business can do to build relationships with neighboring communities?
Strategy
First, know that it’s sometimes possible for a business in a less-competitive market to rank in nearby neighboring cities. If La Tortilleria is one of just 10 such businesses in Marin County, Google may well surface them in a local pack or the expanded local finder view for searchers in multiple neighboring towns because there is a paucity of options. However, as competition becomes denser, purely local rankings beyond city borders become increasingly rare. Google does not need to go outside of the city of San Francisco, for example, to make up complete local results sets for pizza, clothing, automotive services, attorneys, banks, dentists, etc. Assess the density of competition in your desired regional market. If you determine that your business is something of a rarity in your county or similar geographical region, follow the strategy described above in the “Local Rankings” section and give it everything you’ve got so that you can become a dominant result in packs across nearby multiple cities. If competition is too high for this, keep reading.If you determine that what you offer isn’t rare in your region, local pack rankings beyond your city borders may not be feasible. In this case, don’t waste money or time on unachievable goals. Rather, move the goalposts so that your marketing efforts outside of your city are targeting organic, social, paid, and offline visibility.Determine whether your brand lends itself to growing face-to-face relationships with neighboring cities. La Tortilleria can send delivery persons to restaurants and grocery stores throughout its county. They can send their bakers to workshops, culinary schools, public schools, food festivals, expos, fairs, farmers markets, and a variety of events in multiple cities throughout their targeted region. They can sponsor regional events, teams, and organizations. They can cross-sell with a local salsa company, a chocolatier, a caterer. Determine what your brand’s resources are for expanding a real-world footprint within a specific region. Once you’ve begun investing in building this footprint, publicize it. Write content, guest blog, make the news, share socially, advertise online, advertise in local print, radio, and TV media. Earn links, citations and social mentions online for what you are doing offline and grow your regional authority in Google’s eyes while you’re doing it. If your brand is a traditional service area business, like a residential painting company with a single location that serves multiple cities, develops a website landing page for each city you serve. Make each page a showcase of your work in that city, with project features, customer reviews, localized tips, staff interviews, videos, photos, FAQs and more. As with brick-and-mortar models, your level of rarity will determine whether your single physical office can show up in the local packs for more than one city. If your geo-market is densely competitive, the main goal of your service city landing pages will be organic rankings, not local ones.
Group IV: State-wide rankings

Scenario

This is where our desired consumer base can no longer be considered truly local, though local packs may still occasionally come into play. In our continuing story, revenue significantly increased after La Tortilleria appeared on a popular TV show. Now they’ve scaled up their small kitchen to industrial strength in hopes of increasing trade across the state of California. Other examples might be an architectural firm that sends staff state-wide to design buildings or a photographer who accepts event engagements across the state.

What we’re not talking about here is a multi-location business. Any time you have a physical location, you can simply refer back to Groups I–III for strategy because you are truly in the local running any place you have a branch. But for the single location client with a state-wide offering, the quest for broad visibility begs some questions.

Ask the client to consider:

Are state-wide local pack results at all in evidence for my query or is this not the reality at all for my industry? For example, when I do a non-modified search just for “sports arena” in California, it’s interesting to see that Google is willing to make up a local pack of three famous venues spanning Sonora to San Diego (about 500 miles apart). Does Google return state-wide packs for my search terms, and is what I offer so rare that I might be included in them?Does my business model genuinely lend itself to non-local queries and clients willing to travel far to transact with me or hire me from anywhere in the state? For example, it would be a matter of pure vanity for me to want my vacuum cleaner repair shop to rank state-wide, as people can easily access services like mine in their own towns. But, what if I’m marketing a true rara avis, like a famous performing arts company, a landmark museum, a world-class interior design consultancy, or a vintage electronics restoration business?Whether Google returns state-wide local packs or only organic results for my targeted search terms, what can I do to be visible? What are my resources for setting myself apart?
Strategy
First, let’s take it for granted that you’ve got your basic local search strategy in place. You’re already doing everything we’ve covered above to build a strong hyperlocal, local, and regional digital and offline footprint. If Google does return state-wide local packs for your search phrases, simply continue to amp up the known local pack signals we’ve already discussed, in hopes of becoming authoritative enough to be included. If your phrases don’t return state-wide local packs, you will be competing against a big field for organic results visibility. In this case, you are likely to be best served by three things. Firstly, take publication on your website seriously. The more you can write about your offerings, the more of an authoritative resource you will become. Delve deeply into your company’s internal talent for developing magazine-quality content and bring in outside experts where necessary. Secondly, invest in link research tools like Moz Link Explorer to analyze which links are helping competitors to rank highly in the organic results for your desired terms and to discover where you need to get links to grow your visibility. Thirdly, seek out your state’s most trusted media sources and create a strategy for seeking publicity from them. Whether this comes down to radio, newspapers, TV shows, blogs, social platforms, or organizational publications, build your state-wide fame via inclusion. If all else fails and you need to increase multi-regional visibility throughout your state, you will need to consider your resources for opening additional staffed offices in new locales.
Group V: National rankings & beyond

Scenario

Here, we encounter two common themes, neither of which fall within our concept of local search.

In the first instance, La Tortilleria is ready to go multi-state or nation-wide with its product, distributing goods outside of California as a national brand. The second is the commonly-encountered digital brand that is vending to a multi-state or national audience and is often frustrated by the fact that they are being outranked both in the local and organic results by physical, local companies in a variety of locations. In either case, the goals of both models can sometimes extend beyond country borders when businesses go multinational.

Ask the client to consider:

What is my business model? Am I selling B2B, B2C, or both? Which marketing strategies will generate the brand recognition I need? Is my most critical asset my brand’s website, or other forms of off-and-online advertising? Am I like Wayfair, where my e-commerce sales are almost everything, bolstered by TV advertising? Or, am I like Pace Foods with a website offering little more than branding because distribution to other businesses is where my consumers find me? Does my offering need to be regionalized to succeed? Perhaps La Tortilleria will need to start producing super-sized white flour tortillas to become a hit in Texas. McDonald’s offers SPAM in Hawaii and green chile cheeseburgers in New Mexico. Regional language variants, seasonality, and customs may require fine-tuning of campaigns.
Strategy
If your national brand hinges on B2C online sales, let me put the e-commerce SEO column of the Moz blog at your fingertips. Also highly recommended, E-commerce SEO: The Definitive Guide. If your national brand revolves around getting your product on shelves, delve into Neilsen’s manufacturer/distributor resources and I’ve also found some good reading at MrCheckout. If you are expanding beyond your country, read Moz’s basic definition of International SEO, then move on to An In-Depth Look at International SEO and The Ultimate Guide to International SEO. This article can’t begin to cover all of the steps involved in growing a brand from local to an international scale, but in all scenarios, a unifying question will revolve around how to cope with the reality that Google will frequently rank local brands above or alongside your business for queries that matter to you. If your business has a single physical headquarters, then content, links, social, and paid advertising will be the tools at your disposal to compete as best you can. Rarity may be your greatest strength, as seen in the case of America’s sole organic tulip bulb grower, or authority, as in the case of this men’s grooming site ranking for all kinds of queries related to beards.You’ll be wanting to rank for every user nationwide, but you’ll also need to be aware of who your competitors are at a local and regional level. This is why even national/international brands need some awareness of how local search works so that they can identify and audit strong local brands in target markets in order to compete with them in the organic SERPs, sometimes fine-tuning their offerings to appeal to regional needs and customs. I often hear from digital-only brands that want to rank in every city in the nation for a virtual service. While this may be possible for a business with overwhelming authority and brand recognition (think Amazon), a company just starting out can set a more reasonable goal of analyzing a handful of major cities instead of thousands of them to see what it would take to get in the running with entrenched local and digital brands.Finally, I want to mention one interesting and common national business model with its own challenges. In this category are tutoring businesses, nanny services, dog walking services, and other brands that have a national headquarters but whose employees or contractors are the ones providing face-to-face services. Owners ask if it’s possible to create multiple Google listings based on the home addresses of their workers so that they can achieve local pack rankings for what is, in fact, a locally-rendered service. The answer is that Google doesn’t approve of this tactic. So, where a local pack presence is essential, the brand must find a way to staff an office in each target region. Avoid virtual offices, which are explicitly forbidden, but there could be some leeway in exploring inexpensive co-working spaces staffed during stated business hours and where no other business in the same Google category is operating. A business that determines this model could work for them can then pop back up to Groups I-IV to see how far local search can take them.
Summing up

There may be no more important task in client-onboarding than setting correct expectations. Basing a strategy on what’s possible for each client’s business model will be the best guardian of your time and your client’s budget. To recap:

Identify the client’s model.Investigate Google’s search behavior for the client’s important search phrases. Gauge the density of competition/rarity of the client’s offerings in the targeted area.Audit competitors to discover their strengths and weaknesses.Create a strategy for local, organic, social, paid, and offline marketing based on the above four factors.

For each client who asks you how to rank beyond their physical location, there will be a unique answer. The work your agency puts into finding that answer will make you an expert in their markets and a powerful ally in achieving their achievable goals.

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Web Optimization

The One-Hour Guide to SEO: Technical SEO – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by randfish

We’ve reached among the meatiest SEO subjects in our series: technical SEO. In this 5th part of the One-Hour Guide to SEO, Rand covers necessary technical subjects from crawlability to internal link structure to subfolders and even more. Enjoy on for a firmer grasp of technical SEO basics!

Click on the white boards image above to open a high resolution variation in a brand-new tab!

.Video Transcription.

Howdy, Moz fans, and invite back to our unique One-Hour Guide to SEO Whiteboard Friday series. This is Part V – Technical SEO. I wish to be absolutely in advance. Technical SEO is a deep and large discipline like any of the important things we’ve been speaking about in this One-Hour Guide.

There is no other way in the next 10 minutes that I can provide you whatever that you’ll ever require to understand about technical SEO, however we can cover much of the huge, crucial, structural principles. That’s what we’re going to deal with today. You will come out of this having at least a great concept of what you require to be thinking of, and after that you can go check out more resources from Moz and numerous other terrific sites in the SEO world that can assist you along these courses.

.1. Every page on the site is distinctively important &special.

First off, every page on a site ought to be 2 things —– special, special from all the other pages on that site, and distinctively important, suggesting it supplies some worth that a user, a searcher would really desire and prefer. In some cases the degree to which it’s distinctively important might not suffice, and we’ll require to do some smart things.

So, for instance, if we’ve got a page about Y, x, and z versus a page that’s sort of, “Oh, this is a bit of a mix of X and Y that you can survive browsing and after that filtering this way.Oh, here’s another copy of that XY, however it’s a somewhat various version.Here’s one with YZ. This is a page that has nearly absolutely nothing on it, however we sort of requirement it to exist for this unusual factor that has absolutely nothing to do, however nobody would ever wish to discover it through online search engine.”

Okay, when you come across these kinds of pages instead of these distinctively important and distinct ones, you wish to think of: Should I be canonicalizing those, implying point this one back to this one for online search engine functions? Possibly YZ simply isn’t various enough from Z for it to be a different page in Google’s eyes and in searchers’ eyes. I’m going to utilize something called the rel= canonical tag to point this YZ page back to Z.

Maybe I wish to eliminate these pages. Oh, this is completely non-valuable to anybody. 404 it. Get it out of here. Perhaps I wish to obstruct bots from accessing this area of our website. Perhaps these are search engine result that make good sense if you’ve performed this question on our website, however they do not make any sense to be indexed in Google. I’ll keep Google out of it utilizing the robots.txt file or the meta robotics or other things.

.2. Pages are available to spiders, load quickly, and can be completely parsed in a text-based internet browser.

Secondarily, pages are available to spiders. They ought to be available to spiders. They need to pack quickly, as quick as you perhaps can. There’s a lots of resources about enhancing and enhancing images server action times and enhancing very first paint and very first significant paint and all these various things that enter into speed.

But speed is excellent not just due to the fact that of technical SEO problems, implying Google can crawl your pages quicker, which frequently when individuals accelerate the load speed of their pages, they discover that Google crawls more from them and crawls them more regularly, which is a fantastic thing, however likewise due to the fact that pages that fill quickly make users better. When you make users better, you make it most likely that they will magnify and connect and share and return and keep packing and not click the back button, all these favorable things and preventing all these unfavorable things.

They must have the ability to be completely parsed in basically a text web browser, indicating that if you have a fairly unsophisticated web browser that is refraining from doing an excellent task of processing JavaScript or post-loading of script occasions or other kinds of material, Flash and things like that, it needs to hold true that a spider ought to have the ability to check out that page and still see all of the significant material in text kind that you wish to provide.

Google still is not processing every image at the I’m going to examine whatever that’s in this image and extract out the text from it level, nor are they doing that with video, nor are they doing that with numerous type of JavaScript and other scripts. I would advise you and I understand numerous other SEOs, especially Barry Adams, a popular SEO who states that JavaScript is wicked, which might be taking it a little bit far, however we capture his significance, that you ought to be able to pack whatever into these pages in HTML in text.

.3. Thin material, replicate material, spider traps/infinite loops are removed.

Thin material and replicate material —– thin content significance material that does not supply meaningfully beneficial, separated worth, and replicate content significance it’s precisely the like something else —– spider traps and boundless loops, like calendaring systems, these must normally speaking be removed. If you have those replicate variations and they exist for some factor, for instance perhaps you have a printer-friendly variation of a post and the routine variation of the post and the mobile variation of the short article, fine, there need to most likely be some canonicalization going on there, the rel= canonical tag being utilized to state this is the initial variation and here’s the mobile friendly variation and those examples.

If you have search results page in the search results page, Google usually chooses that you do not do that. If you have small variations, Google would choose that you canonicalize those, specifically if the filters on them are not meaningfully and usefully various for searchers.

.4. Pages with important material are available through a shallow, comprehensive internal links structure.

Number 4, pages with important material on them need to be available through simply a couple of clicks, in a comprehensive however shallow internal link structure.

Now this is an idealized variation. You’re most likely seldom going to come across precisely this. Let’s state I’m on my homepage and my homepage has 100 links to distinct pages on it. That gets me to 100 pages. One hundred more links per page gets me to 10,000 pages, and 100 more gets me to 1 million.

So that’s just 3 clicks from homepage to one million pages. You may state, “Well, Rand, that’s a bit of a best pyramid structure. I concur. Fair enough. Still, 3 to 4 clicks to any page on any site of almost any size, unless we’re discussing a website with numerous countless pages or more, ought to be the basic guideline. I need to have the ability to follow that through either a sitemap.

If you have an intricate structure and you require to utilize a sitemap, that’s fine. Google is great with you utilizing an HTML page-level sitemap. Or additionally, you can simply have an excellent link structure internally that gets everybody quickly, within a couple of clicks, to every page on your website. You do not wish to have these holes that need, “Oh, yeah, if you wished to reach that page, you could, however you ‘d need to go to our blog site and after that you ‘d need to click back to result 9, and after that you ‘d need to click to result 18 and after that to result 27, and after that you can discover it.”

No, that’s not perfect. That’s a lot of clicks to require individuals to make to get to a page that’s simply a little methods back in your structure.

.5. Pages ought to be enhanced to show easily and plainly on any gadget, even at sluggish connection speeds.

Five, I believe this is apparent, however for numerous factors, consisting of the truth that Google thinks about mobile friendliness in its ranking systems, you wish to have a page that loads plainly and easily on any gadget, even at sluggish connection speeds, enhanced for both mobile and desktop, enhanced for 4G and likewise enhanced for 2G and no G.

.6. Irreversible redirects must utilize the 301 status code, dead pages the 404, momentarily not available the 503, and all alright ought to utilize the 200 status code.

Permanent redirects. This page was here. Now it’s over here. This old material, we’ve produced a brand-new variation of it. Okay, old material, what do we finish with you? Well, we may leave you there if we believe you’re important, however we might reroute you. It needs to usually utilize the 301 status code if you’re rerouting old things for any factor.

If you have a dead page, it needs to utilize the 404 status code. You might possibly often utilize 410, completely eliminated. Momentarily not available, like we’re having some downtime this weekend while we do some upkeep, 503 is what you desire. Whatever is alright, whatever is excellent, that’s a 200. All of your pages that have significant material on them need to have a 200 code.

These status codes, anything else beyond these, and perhaps the 410, usually speaking ought to be prevented. There are some really periodic, unusual, edge usage cases. If you discover status codes other than these, for example if you’re utilizing Moz, which crawls your site and reports all this information to you and does this technical audit every week, if you see status codes other than these, Moz or other software application like it, Screaming Frog or Ryte or DeepCrawl or these other kinds, they’ll state, “Hey, this looks bothersome to us. You need to most likely do something about this.”

.7. Usage HTTPS (and make your website safe and secure).

When you are constructing a site that you wish to rank in online search engine, it is extremely a good idea to utilize a security certificate and to have HTTPS instead of HTTP, the non-secure variation. Those must likewise be canonicalized. When HTTP is the one that is filling ideally, there must never ever be a time. Google likewise provides a little benefit —– I’m not even sure it’s that little any longer, it may be relatively considerable at this moment —– to pages that utilize HTTPS or a charge to those that do not.

.8. One domain>> numerous, subfolders>> subdomains, pertinent folders>> long, hyphenated URLs.

In basic, well, I do not even wish to state in basic. It is almost universal, with a couple of edge cases —– if you’re an extremely innovative SEO, you may be able to disregard a bit of this —– however it is usually the case that you desire one domain, not numerous. Allmystuff.com, not allmyseattlestuff.com, allmyportlandstuff.com, and allmylastuff.com.

Allmystuff.com is more effective for numerous, lots of technical factors and likewise since the obstacle of ranking several sites is so considerable compared to the obstacle of ranking one.

You desire subfolders, not subdomains, implying I desire allmystuff.com/seattle,/ la, and/ portland, not seattle.allmystuff.com.

Why is this? Google’s agents have actually often stated that it does not actually matter and I need to do whatever is simple for me. I have many cases throughout the years, case research studies of folks who moved from a subdomain to a subfolder and saw their rankings increase over night. Credit to Google’s reps.

I’m sure they’re getting their details from someplace. Really honestly, in the genuine world, it simply works all the time to put it in a subfolder. I have actually never ever seen an issue remaining in the subdomain versus the subfolder, where there are numerous issues and there are numerous concerns that I would highly, highly prompt you versus it. I believe 95% of expert SEOs, who have actually ever had a case like this, would do.

Relevant folders need to be utilized instead of long, hyphenated URLs. This is one where we concur with Google. Google normally states, hello, if you have allmystuff.com/seattle/ storagefacilities/top10places, that is far much better than/ seattle- storage-facilities-top-10-places. It’s simply the case that Google is proficient at folder structure analysis and company, and users like it too and excellent breadcrumbs originated from there.

There’s a lot of advantages. Normally utilizing this folder structure is chosen to really, long URLs, specifically if you have several pages in those folders.

.9. Usage breadcrumbs carefully on larger/deeper-structured websites.

Last, however not least, a minimum of last that we’ll speak about in this technical SEO conversation is utilizing breadcrumbs sensibly. Breadcrumbs, really both on-page and technical, it’s excellent for this.

Google usually finds out some things from the structure of your site from utilizing breadcrumbs. They likewise offer you this great advantage in the search engine result, where they reveal your URL in this friendly method, specifically on mobile, mobile more so than desktop. They’ll reveal house>> seattle> storage centers. Great, looks lovely. Functions well for users. It assists Google.

So there are plenty more extensive resources that we can enter into on much of these subjects and others around technical SEO, however this is an excellent beginning point. From here, we will take you to Part VI, our last one, on link structure next week. Make sure.

Video transcription by Speechpad.com

.In case you missed them:.

Check out the other episodes in the series up until now:

The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 1: SEO Strategy The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 2: Keyword Research The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 3: Searcher Satisfaction The One-Hour Guide to SEO, Part 4: Keyword Targeting &On-Page Optimization

Sign up for The Moz Top 10 , a semimonthly mailer upgrading you on the leading 10 most popular pieces of SEO news, suggestions, and rad links revealed by the Moz group. Think about it as your special absorb of things you do not have time to hound however wish to check out!

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Web Optimization

What Links to Target with Google’s Disavow Tool – Whiteboard Friday

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Posted by Cyrus-Shepard

Do you need to disavow links in the modern age of Google? Is it safe? If so, which links should you disavow? In this Whiteboard Friday, Cyrus Shepard answers all these questions and more. While he makes it clear that the majority of sites shouldn’t have to use Google’s Disavow Tool, he provides his personal strategies for those times when using the tool makes sense.How do you decide when to disavow? We’d love to hear your process in the comments below!

Click on the whiteboard image above to open a high-resolution version in a new tab!

Video Transcription

Howdy, Moz fans. Welcome to another edition of Whiteboard Friday. I’m Cyrus Shepard. Today we’re going to be talking about a big topic — Google’s Disavow Tool. We’re going to be discussing when you should use it and what links you should target.

Now, this is kind of a scary topic to a lot of SEOs and webmasters. They’re kind of scared of the Disavow Tool. They think, “It’s not necessary. It can be dangerous. You shouldn’t use it.” But it’s a real tool. It exists for a reason, and Google maintains it for exactly for webmasters to use it. So today we’re going to be covering the scenarios which you might consider using it and what links you should target.

Disclaimer! The vast majority of sites don’t need to disavow *anything*

Now I want to start out with a big disclaimer. I want this to be approved by the Google spokespeople. So the big disclaimer is the vast majority of sites don’t need to disavow anything. Google has made tremendous progress over the last few years of determining what links to simply ignore. In fact, that was one of the big points of the last Penguin 4.0 algorithm update.

Before Penguin, you had to disavow links all the time. But after Penguin 4.0, Google simply ignored most bad links, emphasis on the word “most.” It’s not a perfect system. They don’t ignore all bad links. We’ll come back to that point in a minute. There is a danger in using the Disavow Tool of disavowing good links.

That’s the biggest problem I see with people who use the disavow is it’s really hard to determine what Google counts as a bad link or a harmful link and what they count as a good link. So a lot of people over-disavow and disavow too many things. So that’s something you need to look out for. My final point in the disclaimer is large, healthy sites with good link profiles are more immune to bad links.

So if you are The New York Times or Wikipedia and you have a few spam links pointing to you, it’s really not going to hurt you. But if your link profile isn’t as healthy, that’s something you need to consider. So with those disclaimers out of the way, let’s talk about the opposite sort of situations, situations where you’re going to want to consider using the Disavow Tool.

Good candidates for using the Disavow Tool

Obviously, if you have a manual penalty. Now, these have decreased significantly since Penguin 4.0. But they still exist. People still get manual penalties. Definitely, that’s what the Disavow Tool is for. But there are other situations. 

There was a conversation with Marie Haynes, that was published not too long ago, where she was asking in a Google hangout, “Are there other situations that you can use the disavow other than a penalty, where your links may hurt you algorithmically?”

John Mueller said this certainly was the case, that if you want to disavow those obviously dodgy links that could be hurting you algorithmically, it might help Google trust your link profile a little more. If your link profile isn’t that healthy in the first place if you only have a handful of links and some of those are dodgy, you don’t have a lot to fall back on.

So disavowing those dodgy links can help Google trust the rest of your link profile a little more. 

1. Penalty examples

Okay, with those caveats out of the way and situations where you do want to disavow, a big question people have is, “Well, what should I disavow?” So I’ve done this for a number of sites, and these are my standards and I’ll share them with you. So good candidates to disavow, the best examples are often what Google will give you when they penalize you.

Again it’s a little more rare, but when you do get a link penalty, Google will often provide sample links. They don’t tell you all of the links to disavow. But they’ll give you sample links, and you can go through and you can look for patterns in your links to see what matches what Google is considering a spammy link. You definitely want to include those in your disavow file. 

2. Link schemes

If you’ve suffered a drop in traffic, or you think Google is hurting you algorithmically because of your links, obviously if you’ve participated in link schemes, if you’ve been a little bit naughty and violated Google’s Webmaster Guidelines, you definitely want to take a look at those.

We’re talking about links that you paid for or someone else paid for. It’s possible someone bought some shady links to try to bring you down, although Google is good at ignoring a lot of those. If you use PBNs. Now I know a lot of black hat SEOs that use PBNs and swear by them. But when they don’t work, when you’ve been hurt algorithmically or you’ve been penalized or your traffic is down and you’re using PBNs, that’s a good candidate to put in your disavow file.

3. Non-editorial links

Google has a whole list of non-editorial links. We’re going to link to it in the transcript below. But these are links that the webmaster didn’t intentionally place, things like widgets, forum spam, signature spam, really shady, dodgy links that you control. A good judge of all of these links is often in the anchor text.

4. $$ Anchor text

Is it a money anchor text? Are these money, high-value keywords? Do you control the anchor text? You can generally tell a really shady link by looking at the anchor text. Is it optimized? Could I potentially benefit? Do I control that?

If the answer is yes to those questions, it’s usually a good candidate for the disavow file. 

The “maybe” candidates for using the Disavow Tool

Then there’s a whole set of links in a bucket that I call the “maybe” file. You might want to disavow. I oftentimes do, but not necessarily. 

1. Malware

So a lot of these would be malware. You click on a link and it gives you a red browser warning that the site contains spam, or your computer freezes up, those toxic links.

If I were Google, I probably wouldn’t want to see those types of links linking to a site. I don’t like them linking to me. I would probably throw them in the disavow. 

2. Cloaked sites

These are sites when you click on the link, they show Google one set of results, but a user a different set of results. The way you find these is that when you’re searching for your links, it’s usually a good idea to look at them using a Googlebot user agent.

If you use Chrome, you can get a browser extension. We’ll link to some of these in the post below. But look at everything and see everything through Google’s eyes using a Googlebot user agent and you can find those cloaked pages. They’re kind of a red flag in terms of link quality. 

3. Shady 404s

Now, what do I mean by a shady 404? You click on the link and the page isn’t there, and in fact, maybe the whole domain isn’t there. You’ve got a whole bunch of these. It looks like just something is off about these 404s. The reason I throw these in the disavow file is because usually there’s no record of what the link was. It was usually some sort of spammy link.

They were trying to rank for something, and then, for whatever reason, they removed the entire domain or it’s removed by the domain registrar. Because I don’t know what was there, I usually disavow it. It’s not going to help me in the future when Google discovers that it’s gone anyway. So it’s usually a safe bet to disavow those shady 404s. 

4. Bad neighborhood spam

Finally, sometimes you find those bad neighborhood links in your link profile.

These are things like pills, poker, porn, the three P’s of bad neighborhoods. If I were Google and I saw porn linking to my non-porn site, I would consider that pretty shady. Now maybe they’ll just ignore it, but I just don’t feel comfortable having a lot of these bad, spammy neighborhoods linking to me. So I might consider these to throw in the disavow file as well.

Probably okay — don’t necessarily need to disavow

Now finally, we often see a lot of people disavowing links that maybe aren’t that bad. Again, I want to go back to the point it’s hard to tell what Google considers a good link, a valuable link and a poor link. There is a danger in throwing too much in your disavow file, which a lot of people do. They just throw the whole kitchen sink in there.

If you do that, those links aren’t going to count, and your traffic might go down. 

1. Scraper sites

So one thing I don’t personally put in my disavow file are scraper sites. You get a good link in an online magazine, and then a hundred other sites copy it. These are scraper sites. Google is picking them up. I don’t put those in the disavow file because Google is getting better and better at assigning the authority of those links to the original site. I don’t find that putting them in the disavow file has really helped, at least with the sites I work with. 

2. Feeds

The same with feeds. You see a lot of feed links in Google’s list in your link report. These are just raw HTML feeds, RSS feeds. Again, for the same reason, unless they are feeds or scraper sites from this list over here. If they are feeds and scrapers of good sites, no need. 

3. Auto-generated spam 

These are sites that are automatically generated by robots and programs. They’re usually pretty harmless. Google is pretty good at ignoring them. You can tell the difference between auto-generated spam and link scheme again by the anchor text.

Auto-generated spam usually does not have optimized anchor text. It’s usually your page title. It’s usually broken. These are really low-quality pages that Google generally ignores, that I would not put in a disavow. 

4. Simple low quality

These are things like directories, pages that you look at and you’re like, “Oh, wow, they only have three pages on their site. No one is linking to them.”

Leave it up to Google to ignore those, and they generally do a pretty good job. Or Google can count them. For things like this, unless it’s obvious, unless you’re violating these rules, I like to leave them in. I don’t like to include them in the disavow. So we’ve got our list. 

Pro tips for your disavow file

A few pro tips when you actually put your disavow file together if you choose to do so. 

Disavow domain

If you find one bad link on a spammy domain, it’s usually a good idea to disavow the entire domain, because there’s a good chance that there are other links on there that you’re just not spotting.

So using the domain operator in your disavow file is usually a good idea, unless it’s a site like WordPress or something with a lot of subdomains. 

Use Search Console & third-party tools

Where do you find your links to disavow? First choice is generally Search Console, the link report in Search Console, because that’s the links that Google is actually using. It is helpful to use third-party tools, such as Moz Link Explorer, Ahrefs, SEMrush, whatever your link index is, and that’s because you can sort through the anchor text.

When Google gives you their link report, they don’t include the anchor text. It’s very helpful to use those anchor text reports, such as you would get in Moz Link Explorer, and you can sort through and you can find your over-optimized anchor text, your spammy anchor text. You can find patterns and sort. That’s often really helpful to do that in order to sort your information.

Try removing links

If you have a disavow file, and this happens on a lot of older sites, if you’re auditing a site, it’s a really good idea to go in and check and see if a disavow file already exists. It’s possible it was created prior to Penguin 4.0. It’s possible there are a lot of good links in there already, and you can try removing links from that disavow file and see if it helps your rankings, because those older disavow files often contain a lot of links that are actually good, that are actually helping you.

Record everything and treat it as an experiment

Finally, record everything. Treat this as any other SEO process. Record everything. Think of it as an experiment. If you disavow, if you make a mistake and your rankings drop or your rankings go up, you want to know what caused that, and you need to be responsible for that and be a good SEO. All right, that’s all we have for today.

Leave your own disavow comments below. If you like this video, please share. Thanks, everybody.

Bonus: I really liked these posts for detailing alternative ways of finding links to disavow, so I thought I’d share: 

Too Many Links: Strategies for Disavow & CleanupGoogle’s “Disavow Links Tool”: The Complete Guide

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Web Optimization

How Bad Was Google’s Deindexing Bug?

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Posted by Dr-Pete

On Friday, April 5, after lots of site owners and SEOs reported pages falling out of rankings, Google verified a bug that was triggering pages to be deindexed:

MozCast revealed a multi-day boost in temperature levels, consisting of a 105° ° spike on April 6. While deindexing would naturally trigger ranking flux, as pages briefly fell out of rankings and after that came back, SERP-monitoring tools aren’t developed to separate the various reasons for flux.

.Can we separate deindexing flux?

Google’s own tools can assist us inspect whether a page is indexed, however doing this at scale is challenging, and as soon as an occasion has actually passed, we no longer have excellent access to historic information. What if we could separate a set of URLs, however, that we could fairly anticipate to be steady with time? Might we utilize that set to spot uncommon patterns?Across the month of February, the MozCast 10K day-to-day tracking set had 149,043 special URLs ranking on page one. I minimized that to a subset of URLs with the following homes:

.They appeared on page one every day in February (28 overall times) The inquiry did not have sitelinks (i.e. no clear dominant intent) The URL ranked at position # 5 or much better.

Since MozCast just tracks page one, I wished to lower sound from a URL “falling off” from, state, place # 9 to # 11. Utilizing these qualifiers, I was entrusted to a set of 23,237 “steady” URLs. How did those URLs carry out over time?

Here’s the historic information from February 28, 2019 through April 10. This chart is the portion of the 23,237 steady URLs that appeared in MozCast SERPs:

Since all of the URLs in the set were steady throughout February, we anticipate 100% of them to appear on February 28 (which the chart substantiates). The modification in time isn’t remarkable, however what we see is a constant drop-off of URLs (a natural event of altering SERPs in time), with an unique drop on Friday, April 5th, a healing, and after that a comparable drop on Sunday, April 7th.

.Could you focus for us seniors?

Having simply changed to multifocal contacts, I feel your discomfort. Let’s zoom that Y-axis a bit (I wished to reveal you the unvarnished reality initially) and include a trendline. Here’s that zoomed-in chart:

. 

The trend-line remains in purple. The departure from pattern on April 5th and 7th is quite simple to see in the zoomed-in variation. The day-over-day drop on April 5th was 4.0%, followed by a healing, and after that a 2nd, really comparable, 4.4% drop.

Note that this metric moved extremely bit throughout March’s algorithm flux, consisting of the March “core” upgrade. We can’t show definitively that the steady URL drop easily represents deindexing, however it appears to not be affected much by normal Google algorithm updates.

.What about dominant intent?

I deliberately eliminated inquiries with broadened sitelinks from the analysis, considering that those are extremely associated with dominant intent. I assumed that dominant intent may mask a few of the impacts, as Google is extremely bought appearing particular websites for those inquiries. Here’s the very same analysis simply for the inquiries with broadened sitelinks (this yielded a smaller sized set of 5,064 steady URLs):

Other than small variations, the pattern for dominant-intent URLs seems really comparable to the previous analysis. It appears that the effect of deindexing was prevalent.

.Was it methodical or random?

It’s hard to identify whether this bug was random, impacting all websites rather similarly, or was organized in some method. It’s possible that limiting our analysis to “steady” URLs is skewing the outcomes. On the other hand, attempting to determine the instability of inherently-unstable URLs is a bit ridiculous. I ought to likewise keep in mind that the MozCast information set is manipulated towards so-called “head” terms. It does not include numerous questions in the very-long tail, consisting of natural-language concerns.

One concern we can address is whether big websites were affected by the bug. The chart listed below isolates our “Big 3” in MozCast: Wikipedia, Amazon, and Facebook. This minimized us to 2,454 steady URLs. The much deeper we dive, the smaller sized the data-set gets:

At the exact same 90–– 100% zoomed-in scale, you can see that the effect was smaller sized than throughout all steady URLs, however there’s still a clear set of April 5th and April 7th dips. It does not appear that these mega-sites were immune.

Looking at the day-over-day information from April 4th to 5th, it appears that the losses were commonly dispersed throughout numerous domains. Of domains that had 10-or-more steady URLs on April 4th, approximately half saw some loss of ranking URLs. The only domains that experienced 100% day-over-day loss were those that had 3-or-fewer steady URLs in our information set. It does not appear from our information that deindexing methodically targeted particular websites.

.Is this over, and what’s next?

As one of my preferred motion picture prices estimate states: “There are no delighted endings due to the fact that absolutely nothing ever ends.” In the meantime, indexing rates appear to have actually gone back to typical, and I presume that the worst is over, however I can’t anticipate the future. If you think your URLs have actually been deindexed, it’s worth by hand reindexing in Google Search Console . Keep in mind that this is a relatively laborious procedure, and there are everyday limitations in location, so concentrate on important pages.

The effect of the deindexing bug does seem quantifiable, although we can argue about how “huge” 4% is. For something as substantial as websites falling out of Google rankings, 4% is a fair bit, however the long-lasting effect for a lot of websites need to be very little. In the meantime, there’s very little we can do to adjust —– Google is informing us that this was a real bug and not an intentional modification.

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Web Optimization

Restaurant Local SEO: The Google Characteristics of America’s Top-Ranked Eateries

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Posted by MiriamEllis

“A good chef has to be a manager, a businessman and a great cook. To marry all three together is sometimes difficult.” – Wolfgang Puck

I like this quote. It makes me hear phones ringing at your local search marketing agency, with aspiring chefs and restaurateurs on the other end of the line, ready to bring experts aboard in the “sometimes difficult” quest for online visibility.

Is your team ready for these clients? How comfortable do you feel talking restaurant Local SEO when such calls come in? When was the last time you took a broad survey of what’s really ranking in this specialized industry?

Allow me to be your prep cook today, and I’ll dice up “best restaurant” local packs for major cities in all 50 US states. We’ll julienne Google Posts usage, rough chop DA, make chiffonade of reviews, owner responses, categories, and a host of other ingredients to determine which characteristics are shared by establishments winning this most superlative of local search phrases.

The finished dish should make us conversant with what it takes these days to be deemed “best” by diners and by Google, empowering your agency to answer those phones with all the breezy confidence of Julia Child.

Methodology

I looked at the 3 businesses in the local pack for “best restaurants (city)” in a major city in each of the 50 states, examining 11 elements for each entry, yielding 4,950 data points. I set aside the food processor for this one and did everything manually. I wanted to avoid the influence of proximity, so I didn’t search for any city in which I was physically located. The results, then, are what a traveler would see when searching for top restaurants in destination cities.

Restaurant results

Now, let’s look at each of the 11 data points together and see what we learn. Take a seat at the table!

Categories prove no barrier to entry

Which restaurant categories make up the dominant percentage of local pack entries for our search?

You might think that a business trying to rank locally for “best restaurants” would want to choose just “restaurant” as their primary Google category as a close match. Or, you might think that since we’re looking at best restaurants, something like “fine dining restaurants” or the historically popular “French restaurants” might top the charts.

Instead, what we’ve discovered is that restaurants of every category can make it into the top 3. Fifty-one percent of the ranking restaurants hailed from highly diverse categories, including Pacific Northwest Restaurant, Pacific Rim Restaurant, Organic, Southern, Polish, Lebanese, Eclectic and just about every imaginable designation. American Restaurant is winning out in bulk with 26 percent of the take, and an additional 7 percent for New American Restaurant. I find this an interesting commentary on the nation’s present gustatory aesthetic as it may indicate a shift away from what might be deemed fancy fare to familiar, homier plates.

Overall, though, we see the celebrated American “melting pot” perfectly represented when searchers seek the best restaurant in any given city. Your client’s food niche, however specialized, should prove no barrier to entry in the local packs.

High prices don’t automatically equal “best”

Do Google’s picks for “best restaurants” share a pricing structure?

It will cost you more than $1000 per head to dine at Urasawa, the nation’s most expensive eatery, and one study estimates that the average cost of a restaurant meal in the US is $12.75. When we look at the price attribute on Google listings, we find that the designation “best” is most common for establishments with charges that fall somewhere in between the economical and the extravagant.

Fifty-eight percent of the top ranked restaurants for our search have the $$ designation and another 25 percent have the $$$. We don’t know Google’s exact monetary value behind these symbols, but for context, a Taco Bell with its $1–$2 entrees would typically be marked as $, while the fabled French Laundry gets $$$$ with its $400–$500 plates. In our study, the cheapest and the costliest restaurants make up only a small percentage of what gets deemed “best.”

There isn’t much information out there about Google’s pricing designations, but it’s generally believed that they stem at least in part from the attribute questions Google sends to searchers. So, this element of your clients’ listings is likely to be influenced by subjective public sentiment. For instance, Californians’ conceptions of priciness may be quite different from North Dakotans’. Nevertheless, on the national average, mid-priced restaurants are most likely to be deemed “best.”

Of anecdotal interest: The only locale in which all 3 top-ranked restaurants were designated at $$$$ was NYC, while in Trenton, NJ, the #1 spot in the local pack belongs to Rozmaryn, serving Polish cuisine at $ prices. It’s interesting to consider how regional economics may contribute to expectations, and your smartest restaurant clients will carefully study what their local market can bear. Meanwhile, 7 of the 150 restaurants we surveyed had no pricing information at all, indicating that Google’s lack of adequate information about this element doesn’t bar an establishment from ranking.

Less than 5 stars is no reason to despair

Is perfection a prerequisite for “best”?

Negative reviews are the stuff of indigestion for restaurateurs, and I’m sincerely hoping this study will provide some welcome relief. The average star rating of the 150 “best” restaurants we surveyed is 4.5. Read that again: 4.5. And the number of perfect 5-star joints in our study? Exactly zero. Time for your agency to spend a moment doing deep breathing with clients.

The highest rating for any restaurant in our data set is 4.8, and only three establishments rated so highly. The lowest is sitting at 4.1. Every other business falls somewhere in-between. These ratings stem from customer reviews, and the 4.5 average proves that perfection is simply not necessary to be “best.”

Breaking down a single dining spot with 73 reviews, a 4.6 star rating was achieved with fifty-six 5-star reviews, four 4-star reviews, three 3-star reviews, two 2-star reviews, and three 1-star reviews. 23 percent of diners in this small review set had a less-than-ideal experience, but the restaurant is still achieving top rankings. Practically speaking for your clients, the odd night when the pho was gummy and the paella was burnt can be tossed onto the compost heap of forgivable mistakes.

Review counts matter, but differ significantly

How many reviews do the best restaurants have?

It’s folk wisdom that any business looking to win local rankings needs to compete on native Google review counts. I agree with that, but was struck by the great variation in review counts across the nation and within given packs. Consider:

The greatest number of reviews in our study was earned by Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville, TN, coming in at a whopping 4,537! Meanwhile, Park Heights Restaurant in Tupelo, MS is managing a 3-pack ranking with just 72 reviews, the lowest in our data set.35 percent of “best”-ranked restaurants have between 100–499 reviews and another 31 percent have between 500–999 reviews. Taken together that’s 66 percent of contenders having yet to break 1,000 reviews.A restaurant with less than 100 reviews has only a 1 percent chance of ranking for this type of search.

Anecdotally, I don’t know how much data you would have to analyze to be able to find a truly reliable pattern regarding winning review counts. Consider the city of Dallas, where the #1 spot has 3,365 review, but spots #2 and #3 each have just over 300. Compare that to Tallahassee, where a business with 590 reviews is coming in at #1 above a competitor with twice that many. Everybody ranking in Boise has well over 1,000 reviews, but nobody in Bangor is even breaking into the 200s.

The takeaways from this data point is that the national average review count is 893 for our “best” search, but that there is no average magic threshold you can tell a restaurant client they need to cross to get into the pack. Totals vary so much from city to city that your best plan of action is to study the client’s market and strongly urge full review management without making any promise that hitting 1,000 reviews will ensure them beating out that mysterious competitor who is sweeping up with just 400 pieces of consumer sentiment. Remember, no local ranking factor stands in isolation.

Best restaurants aren’t best at owner responses

How many of America’s top chophouses have replied to reviews in the last 60 days?

With a hat tip to Jason Brown at the Local Search Forum for this example of a memorable owner response to a negative review, I’m sorry to say I have some disappointing news. Only 29 percent of the restaurants ranked best in all 50 states had responded to their reviews in the 60 days leading up to my study. There were tributes of lavish praise, cries for understanding, and seething remarks from diners, but less than one-third of owners appeared to be paying the slightest bit of attention.

On the one hand, this indicates that review responsiveness is not a prerequisite for ranking for our desirable search term, but let’s go a step further. In my view, whatever time restaurant owners may be gaining back via unresponsiveness is utterly offset by what they stand to lose if they make a habit of overlooking complaints. Review neglect has been cited as a possible cause of business closure. As my friends David Mihm and Mike Blumenthal always say:“Your brand is its reviews” and mastering the customer service ecosystem is your surest way to build a restaurant brand that lasts.

For your clients, I would look at any local pack with neglected reviews as representative of a weakness. Algorithmically, your client’s active management of the owner response function could become a strength others lack. But I’ll even go beyond that: Restaurants ignoring how large segments of customer service have moved onto the web are showing a deficit of commitment to the long haul. It’s true that some eateries are famous for thriving despite offhand treatment of patrons, but in the average city, a superior commitment to responsiveness could increase many restaurants’ repeat business, revenue and rankings.

Critic reviews nice but not essential

I’ve always wanted to investigate critic reviews for restaurants, as Google gives them a great deal of screen space in the listings:

How many times were critic reviews cited in the Google listings of America’s best restaurants and how does an establishment earn this type of publicity?

With 57 appearances, Lonely Planet is the leading source of professional reviews for our search term, with Zagat and 10Best making strong showings, too. It’s worth noting that 70/150 businesses I investigated surfaced no critic reviews at all. They’re clearly not a requirement for being considered “best”, but most restaurants will benefit from the press. Unfortunately, there are few options for prompting a professional review. To wit:

Lonely Planet — Founded in 1972, Lonely Planet is a travel guide publisher headquartered in Australia. Critic reviews like this one are written for their website and guidebooks simultaneously. You can submit a business for review consideration via this form, but the company makes no guarantees about inclusion.

Zagat — Founded in 1979, Zagat began as a vehicle for aggregating diner reviews. It was purchased by Google in 2011 and sold off to The Infatuation in 2018. Restaurants can’t request Zagat reviews. Instead, the company conducts its own surveys and selects businesses to be rated and reviewed, like this.

10Best — Owned by USA Today Travel Media Group, 10Best employs local writers/travelers to review restaurants and other destinations. Restaurants cannot request a review.

The Infatuation — Founded in 2009 and headquartered in NY, The Infatuation employs diner-writers to create reviews like this one based on multiple anonymous dining experiences that are then published via their app. The also have a SMS-based restaurant recommendation system. They do not accept request from restaurants hoping to be reviewed.

AFAR — Founded in 2009, AFAR is a travel publication with a website, magazine, and app which publishes reviews like this one. There is no form for requesting a review.

Michelin — Founded as a tire company in 1889 in France, Michelin’s subsidiary ViaMichelin is a digital mapping service that houses the reviews Google is pulling. In my study, Chicago, NYC and San Francisco were the only three cities that yielded Michelin reviews like this one and one article states that only 165 US restaurants have qualified for a coveted star rating. The company offers this guide to dining establishments.

As you can see, the surest way to earn a professional review is to become notable enough on the dining scene to gain the unsolicited notice of a critic. 

Google Posts hardly get a seat at best restaurant tables

How many picks for best restaurants are using the Google Posts microblogging feature?

As it turns out, only a meager 16 percent of America’s “best” restaurants in my survey have made any use of Google Posts. In fact, most of the usage I saw wasn’t even current. I had to click the “view previous posts on Google” link to surface past efforts. This statistic is much worse than what Ben Fisher found when he took a broader look at Google Posts utilization and found that 42 percent of local businesses had at least experimented with the feature at some point.

For whatever reason, the eateries in my study are largely neglecting this influential feature, and this knowledge could encompass a competitive advantage for your restaurant clients.

Do you have a restaurateur who is trying to move up the ranks? There is some evidence that devoting a few minutes a week to this form of microblogging could help them get a leg up on lazier competitors.

Google Posts are a natural match for restaurants because they always have something to tout, some appetizing food shot to share, some new menu item to celebrate. As the local SEO on the job, you should be recommending an embrace of this element for its valuable screen real estate in the Google Business Profile, local finder, and maybe even in local packs.

Waiter, there’s some Q&A in my soup

What is the average number of questions top restaurants are receiving on their Google Business Profiles?

Commander’s Palace in New Orleans is absolutely stealing the show in my survey with 56 questions asked via the Q&A feature of the Google Business Profile. Only four restaurants had zero questions. The average number of questions across the board was eight.

As I began looking at the data, I decided not to re-do this earlier study of mine to find out how many questions were actually receiving responses from owners, because I was winding up with the same story. Time and again, answers were being left up to the public, resulting in consumer relations like these:

Takeaway: As I mentioned in a previous post, Greg Gifford found that 40 percent of his clients’ Google Questions were leads. To leave those leads up to the vagaries of the public, including a variety of wags and jokesters, is to leave money on the table. If a potential guest is asking about dietary restrictions, dress codes, gift cards, average prices, parking availability, or ADA compliance, can your restaurant clients really afford to allow a public “maybe” to be the only answer given?

I’d suggest that a dedication to answering questions promptly could increase bookings, cumulatively build the kind of reputation that builds rankings, and possibly even directly impact rankings as a result of being a signal of activity.

A moderate PA & DA gets you into the game

What is the average Page Authority and Domain Authority of restaurants ranking as “best’?

Looking at both the landing page that Google listings are pointing to and the overall authority of each restaurant’s domain, I found that:

The average PA is 36, with a high of 56 and a low of zero being represented by one restaurant with no website link and one restaurant appearing to have no website at all.The average DA is 41, with a high of 88, one business lacking a website link while actually having a DA of 56 and another one having no apparent website at all. The lowest linked DA I saw was 6.PA/DA do not = rankings. Within the 50 local packs I surveyed, 32 of them exhibited the #1 restaurant having a lower DA than the establishments sitting at #2 or #3. In one extreme case, a restaurant with a DA of 7 was outranking a website with a DA of 32, and there were the two businesses with the missing website link or missing website. But, for the most part, knowing the range of PA/DA in a pack you are targeting will help you create a baseline for competing.

While pack DA/PA differs significantly from city to city, the average numbers we’ve discovered shouldn’t be out-of-reach for established businesses. If your client’s restaurant is brand new, it’s going to take some serious work to get up market averages, of course.

Local Search Ranking Factors 2019 found that DA was the 9th most important local pack ranking signal, with PA sitting at factor #20. Once you’ve established a range of DA/PA for a local SERP you are trying to move a client up into, your best bet for making improvements will include improving content so that it earns links and powering up your outreach for local links and linktations.

Google’s Local Finder “web results” show where to focus management

Which websites does Google trust enough to cite as references for restaurants?

As it turns out, that trust is limited to a handful of sources:

As the above pie chart shows:

The restaurant’s website was listed as a reference for 99 percent of the candidates in our survey. More proof that you still need a website in 2019, for the very good reason that it feeds data to Google.Yelp is highly trusted at 76 percent and TripAdvisor is going strong at 43 percent. Your client is likely already aware of the need to manage their reviews on these two platforms. Be sure you’re also checking them for basic data accuracy.OpenTable and Facebook are each getting a small slice of Google trust, too.

Not shown in the above chart are 13 restaurants that had a web reference from a one-off source, like the Des Moines Register or Dallas Eater. A few very famous establishments, like Brennan’s in New Orleans, surfaced their Wikipedia page, although they didn’t do so consistently. I noticed Wikipedia pages appearing one day as a reference and then disappearing the next day. I was left wondering why.

For me, the core takeaway from this factor is that if Google is highlighting your client’s listing on a given platform as a trusted web result, your agency should go over those pages with a fine-toothed comb, checking for accuracy, activity, and completeness. These are citations Google is telling you are of vital importance.

A few other random ingredients

As I was undertaking this study, there were a few things I noted down but didn’t formally analyze, so consider this as mixed tapas:

Menu implementation is all over the place. While many restaurants are linking directly to their own website via Google’s offered menu link, some are using other services like Single Platform, and far too many have no menu link at all.Reservation platforms like Open Table are making a strong showing, but many restaurants are drawing a blank on this Google listing field, too. Many, but far from all, of the restaurants designated “best” feature Google’s “reserve a table” function which stems from partnerships with platforms like Open Table and RESY. Order links are pointing to multiple sources including DoorDash, Postmates, GrubHub, Seamless, and in some cases, the restaurant’s own website (smart!). But, in many cases, no use is being made of this function. Photos were present for every single best-ranked restaurant. Their quality varied, but they are clearly a “given” in this industry.Independently-owned restaurants are the clear winners for my search term. With the notable exception of an Olive Garden branch in Parkersburg, WV, and a Cracker Barrel in Bismarck, ND, the top competitors were either single-location or small multi-location brands. For the most part, neither Google nor the dining public associate large chains with “best”.Honorable mentions go to Bida Manda Laotian Bar & Grill for what looks like a gorgeous and unusual restaurant ranking #1 in Raleigh, NC and to Kermit’s Outlaw Kitchen of Tupelo, MS for the most memorable name in my data set. You can get a lot of creative inspiration from just spending time with restaurant data.
A final garnish to our understanding of this data

I want to note two things as we near the end of our study:

Local rankings emerge from the dynamic scenario of Google’s opinionated algorithms + public opinion and behavior. Doing Local SEO for restaurants means managing a ton of different ingredients: website SEO, link building, review management, GBP signals, etc. We can’t offer clients a generic “formula” for winning across the board. This study has helped us understand national averages so that we can walk into the restaurant space feeling conversant with the industry. In practice, we’ll need to discover the true competitors in each market to shape our strategy for each unique client. And that brings us to some good news.As I mentioned at the outset of this survey, I specifically avoided proximity as an influence by searching as a traveler to other destinations would. I investigated one local pack for each major city I “visited”. The glad tidings are that, for many of your restaurant clients, there is going to be more than one chance to rank for a search like “best restaurants (city)”. Unless the eatery is in a very small town, Google is going to whip up a variety of local packs based on the searcher’s location. So, that’s something hopeful to share.
What have we learned about restaurant local SEO?

A brief TL;DR you can share easily with your clients:

While the US shows a predictable leaning towards American restaurants, any category can be a contender. So, be bold!Mid-priced restaurants are considered “best” to a greater degree than the cheapest or most expensive options. Price for your market. While you’ll likely need at least 100 native Google reviews to break into these packs, well over half of competitors have yet to break the 1,000 mark.An average 71 percent of competitors are revealing a glaring weakness by neglecting to respond to reviews – so get in there and start embracing customer service to distinguish your restaurant!A little over half of your competitors have earned critic reviews. If you don’t yet have any, there’s little you can do to earn them beyond becoming well enough known for anonymous professional reviewers to visit you. In the meantime, don’t sweat it.About three-quarters of your competitors are completely ignoring Google Posts; gain the advantage by getting active.Potential guests are asking nearly every competitor questions, and so many restaurants are leaving leads on the table by allowing random people to answer. Embrace fast responses to Q&A to stand out from the crowd.With few exceptions, devotion to authentic link earning efforts can build up your PA/DA to competitive levels.Pay attention to any platform Google is citing as a resource to be sure the information published there is a complete and accurate.The current management of other Google Business Profile features like Menus, Reservations and Ordering paints a veritable smorgasbord of providers and a picture of prevalent neglect. If you need to improve visibility, explore every profile field that Google is giving you.

A question for you: Do you market restaurants? Would you be willing to share a cool local SEO tactic with our community? We’d love to hear about your special sauce in the comments below.

Wishing you bon appétit for working in the restaurant local SEO space, with delicious wins ahead!

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Web Optimization

Showcase of Retro Logo & Badge Designs

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Do you love retro looks? Searching for a bit of inspiration for your next graphic design or website project? 1950s-inspired retro design tends to fluctuate in and out of popularity, but the beautiful vintage-inspired look always returns eventually. Usually with a modern twist.

Retro and vintage style is universally appealing for a variety of reasons. For many, it evokes nostalgia for places, TV shows, and posters seen in childhood. And the colorful style, neat and simplistic look, and clean symmetry is pleasing to the eye. You can still find remnants of this style today in logos and branding from many popular companies.

Ready to get in on the retro resurgence? You’re going to need a little inspiration to give you a boost. These fifteen fantastic badges will send you right back to the fifties, so take note!

Outside Lands 2016 Festival Branding by DKNG

Outside Lands 2016 Festival Branding

Red Desert Adventure by Sean Heisler

Red Desert Adventure

Element Skate Camp by Curtis Jinkins

Element Skate Camp

O’Neill Graphic Design by Curtis Jinkins

O’Neill Graphic Design

Space Shuttle by Aaron James Draplin

Space Shuttle

Mountain Patches by Andrew Berkemeyer

Mountain Patches

Outside Lands Patch: Golden Gate Park by DKNG

Outside Lands Patch: Golden Gate Park

2 Cents Badge by Shane Harris

2 Cents Badge

Peters Design Co Eagle Badge Revised by Allan Peters

Peters Design Co Eagle Badge Revised

Portland Badgehunting Club by Allan Peters

Portland Badgehunting Club

Broadridge Achievers Club 2019 by Alana Louise

Broadridge Achievers Club 2019

RCB Co. by Benjamin Garner

RCB Co.

Cyclist Patch by DKNG

Cyclist Patch

Grand Teton National Park by Danielle Podeszek

Grand Teton National Park

Go Atlanta Braves! by Jacob Boyles

Go Atlanta Braves!

Old-School Badge Design

That was fifteen of the greatest retro badges and logos across the web. Bright colors, warm tones, and attention-calling typography are staples of these logos. Also take notice of the focus on simple, clear shapes. You can see where the popularity of minimalism and flat color design has bled into modern vintage style.

With this inspiration, you should now be able to put together your own retro graphic. It might be hard to pick a favorite from one of these drop-dead gorgeous logos and carefully crafted badges. Which ones spoke to you the most?

Read more: 1stwebdesigner.com